Gerald and Francis have been living in their dream home for the past 10 years. In the last few months they noticed that the bathroom and kitchen are starting to look a bit dated and they would love some ekstra space for the children.
With great excitement they decided to update the bathroom and kitchen and close the stoep area to be used as a family room.
They were very surprised when friends reminded them that they should submit building plans for the stoep before the building work commence. Surely building plans are not necessary, after all, the foundation, as well as two walls, are already in place?
It is important to remember that there are both national regulations, as well as municipality by laws to be taken into consideration.
The City of Cape Town for example require approved building plans for any structure, regardless if it is of a temporary or permanent nature, including alterations or extensions to an existing structure, except for buildings which is less than 5m2, a wire fence or open-side fabric shelter for a car, boat or caravan. The plans must be drawn by an architect, technologist or draughtsperson who is registered with the South African Council for the Architectural Profession.
Furthermore, the City of Cape Town require building work to commence within 1 year from approval of the building plans and upon completion of the building work, a request should be submitted for the issuing of an occupancy certificate.
Before any building work commence, it is very important to contact your local authority and to establish what their requirements are regarding building plans, the submission thereof, as well as among other things their requirements regarding room dimensions, heights, natural lighting and ventilation, as well as the time frame in which building work should be completed, the inspections to be done and the occupation certificate to be issued. Also, should your property be located in a Heritage area or be defined as a Heritage building, different guidelines will apply to keep in line with the architectural style and history of the area.
It may seem inviting to proceed with building work without approved plans, who will find out? A building inspector can order you to stop with any further building until the plans are approved. Failure to adhere thereto, may lead to a fine or even a court order to demolish the unapproved structure.
When planning an extension to an existing house, keep in mind that your property’s Title Deed may also have restrictive conditions limiting the distance to the boundaries of the erf where you are allowed to build, for example “No building or structure or any portion thereof except boundary walls and fences, shall … be erected nearer than 6,30 metres to the street line …, nor within 3,15 metres of the rear or 1,57 metres of the lateral boundary …”
Also, keep in mind, when you sell your property in future, the purchasers are likely to request copies of the approved building plans as a condition of the sale. Should the plans not be up to date, it will be your responsibility to provide updated approved plans. It is possible that an “illegal” / unapproved structure, which could be the very thing that attracted potential buyers in the first place, have to be demolished for the plans to be approved. It is never advisable to make any changes to your property without consulting experts in the field as well as your local authority.
Renovating your property can be a very exciting project, ensure that you do your homework and know what is required from you.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)